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Preparing for the unthinkable

Heidi Kenworthy, a teacher at Rio Rancho Cyber Academy, punches a bag Sunday during a self-defense class in Rio Rancho. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Just two-and-a-half weeks after the deadly school shooting in Florida, dozens of Albuquerque-area teachers spent Sunday afternoon at a Rio Rancho dance studio learning self-defense skills and active shooter response strategies.

“I was literally afraid to go to work and I was having nightmares,” said Christina Daly, owner of Sparrow Dance Productions, who also works as a teacher in Rio Rancho. “I was afraid for my students, because I want to be able to protect them.”

So Daly teamed up with Gloria Marcott, a Rio Rancho police officer who runs Soul Punch Self Defense, to offer a free self-defense training every Sunday for teachers and for anyone else who feels they need it.

Daly said students look to their teachers for protection in moments of crisis.

Rio Rancho police officer Gloria Marcott, right, and retired Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy Josh Perkins teach a self-defense class on Sunday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

“If I was a student, I would want to be in the class with a teacher who had extensive self-defense and active-shooter training,” Daly said. “I would be able to do my studies knowing that I was safe.”

Marcott taught participants how to punch, along with moves for escaping a chokehold or fending off a knife attack, in addition to other strategies.

“We’ve gotta get from thinking I’m going to be OK to knowing I’m going to be OK,” Marcott told the group.

Afterward, representatives from the Rio Rancho Police Department and the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office offered active shooter training.

Teachers Sarah Hosford-Campbell, left, and Monica Manly practice self-defense techniques in a class in Rio Rancho on Sunday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Heidi Kenworthy, a teacher at the Rio Rancho Cyber Academy, said the extra training was a way to channel fear into something productive.

“You can change your nightmares into something that you have a solid plan of action for, which gives us peace and comfort,” she said. “And then you can refocus on teaching your kids.”

The class comes after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people. The attack, among the deadliest school shootings in American history, has reopened a national discussion on school safety and gun control, including consideration of allowing teachers to carry weapons in school.